Photos: Personal transporters from Toyota and Suzuki
Probably due to the sheer size of the Tokyo metropolitan area, Japanese automakers are fascinated with the idea of personal transportation. We caught a few such devices from Suzuki and Toyota at the 2007 Tokyo auto show.
Following previous introductions dubbed the i-Unit and i-Swing, Toyota suggests the name of its new personal transporter indicates it's close to production. i-Real uses an electric drive for its two front wheels, with the third, rear wheel for balance. i-Real has built-in social networking, so you can communicate with other i-Real drivers near by.
At low speeds, such as cruising down the sidewalk, the i-Real maintains an upright position. Its shell displays a light show and it plays musical tones as you drive, to alert pedestrians of your proximity. It also has sensors all the way around, and will alert the driver if he or she is about to hit someone.
Toyota calls the i-Real's higher speed stance highway mode, but we doubt it will go fast enough to keep up with cars. In this mode, the rear wheel extends, lowering the center of gravity. To turn the i-Real, the driver leans in the direction he or she wants to go. Toyota hasn't released specifications for range or top speed.
Suzuki's electric powered personal transporter uses four wheels instead of the i-Real's three. We also like that is has a full canopy, which suggests it might be more comfortable during inclement weather than the Toyota machine. But Suzuki envisions the Pixy for use on sidewalks and inside buildings. Walking will be a thing of the past.
Suzuki had a few models on display showing other types of vehicles with which the Pixy might integrate. We at first thought this one was some kind of air car, but it's probably a boat. Either way, it looks like something that should turn up in the next James Bond movie.
Designed for senior citizens, the Mio is not nearly as glamorous as the Pixy or i-Real, but it is probably closer to reality. The Mio uses a hydrogen fuel cell for power, giving it greater range than a battery-powered transporter. It can also be refueled faster than a battery can be recharged.